Cologne (dpa) – Countless valuable documents were buried under the rubble after the collapse of the Cologne city archives in 2009. Most of the archival documents – some of which were badly damaged – were recovered in the pit during large-scale rescue operations.
Exactly twelve and a half years after the accident in which two residents were killed, the historic property has now found a new home. The newly built city archives opened on Friday – in a different location and with the latest technology.
Mayor Henriette Reker (non-party) said in advance that she was “really happy and happy” that the “memory of what is known to be Germany’s oldest metropolis” is now preserved here. The memory of a city is very similar to that of a person: “If you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know where to go. The new building is the most modern municipal archive in Europe.
The energy-efficient building, which houses the historical archives as well as the Rheinische Bildarchiv, has space for 50 kilometers of shelves for archival documents. The facade consists of architectural bronze slats, which are supposed to guarantee both sun protection and optimal use of daylight. There are nine different climate zones in magazines, in which temperature and humidity are precisely matched to the needs of sensitive archival material. According to the city, the construction time and costs of 90 million euros remained within the planned framework.
The archive is designed as a “citizen archive”, underlines director Bettina Schmidt-Czaia. An open day has been created for all citizens and those interested in history. The reading room offers 45 workstations, there is an amphitheater and several seminar rooms. Exhibitions, guided tours and activities are regularly scheduled.
The restoration workshop is also located in the building. A number of the archives’ 150 employees are busy repairing documents damaged in the collapse – a job that Schmidt-Czaia says will take another 30 years. Hundreds of thousands of files, documents, maps and photos from the city’s most important archives north of the Alps were overturned in the accident. According to a judgment of the Cologne Regional Court, the cause of the collapse was serious errors in the construction of a new metro station.
It is estimated that 95 percent of archival material has been recovered, but only 18 percent of it has since been restored and can be reused. These include, for example, the Kölner Verbundbrief of 1396 – the fundamental constitutional document of the former imperial city of Cologne – but also the city’s “Golden Book” of 1963 with the signatures of the first Lord Mayor and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and former President John F. Kennedy.
Many citizens can also discover treasures of their family history among the documents recovered. Mayor Reker, for example: “My grandmother’s birth certificate, of which no one knew the exact date of birth, also reappeared.